The King Stag

The deer rut is in full swing here where I live, and out on the heath the stags are calling, fighting and just generally being splendid. Here are some shots that I got this week – sadly, I couldn’t take any photos of the clashes, as it was too dark with evening coming swiftly on!

Summer solstice ritual

Last night a couple of friends and I went out onto the heath to celebrate the summer solstice. We have a tight-knit little group of friends, who feel a deep and abiding love of this land and who choose to celebrate it with spontaneous ritual. Tired as we were, we decided to forego the planned ritual in the backyard around the firepit and instead sought the wildnerness of the heath.

The clouds came in and it looked ominous, but we just smiled and headed out into the wilds with our drums. We came across small herds of young deer almost straight away, maybe a year old, hanging out together like many teenagers do. We made our way to a small wood of beech and pine trees, just before the rain began to fall softly.

The smell of green and growing things was all around us, the canopy of beech trees waving in the wind above us. Beneath the tall, grey trunks lay the remains of a fallen tree, a perfect altar around which we stood, pulling our drums out of our bags. Without a word we spread out around the altar, pulling drums out of our bags and beginning to drum softly, the heartbeat of the land at dusk.

Warming to the heartbeat, we let it die away into the quiet of the deepening dark. We then took a few deep breaths, allowing the energy of the land and the time of year to infuse our spirit. The drums then began to beat again, a rising rhythm of joy and celebration, ringing out to all who could hear. And indeed, many did hear – a herd of young deer came running over to us, to see what was going on, their inquisitive eyes watching us, then recognising us and resuming their normal business.

We began to chant, a chant to Elen, which merged into a chant of the summer solstice. We sang of the land around us, honouring all that was happening in that moment. Fully immersed in the serpent energy swirling around us at this sacred time of the year, we allowed the awen to flow through us, as vehicles for the inspiration to come through and be expressed in deep reverence and joy.

As the darkness deepened we moved to a lighter patch beneath the beech trees, and began to dance. We dance the sacred round, hand to hand.

We then moved out onto the open heath, the wind picking up and the setting sun glowing in the north-west. The crescent moon appeared every now and then from behind tattered clouds in the west. We spoke of our thanks for our blessings, of the courage to walk into the dark half of the year, of the brilliance and our thanks for the light and for the teachings of the coming darkness.

As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon we made our way home, across the sandy soil and past the field of green barley, harvested last week. Where our bodies were previously tired, smiles now replaced yawns, and our bodies hummed with the wonderful energy of the summer solstice.

May we be the awen.

A Deer Little Moment…

So, I’m strapping on my snowshoes, minding my own business, when I feel something beside me and see a brownish blur out of the corner of my eye. I think, “Someone’s dog is around from the car park.” I finish doing up one shoe and reach over for the other one, looking up – right into the face of a white-tailed deer. Astounded, I look the other way and there’s another one. And another one. Four suddenly surrounded us, four stealthy ninja deer who came out of nowhere and figured that they outnumbered us, so it should be okay. I had some sunflower seeds in my pocket for the chickadees, which they soon munched up straight from my hand. An absolutely wonderful, magical moment… as quickly as they arrived, they left, silently melting back into the woods. Did I mention that I had been praying to Elen of the Ways every morning?  We had a wonderful two days of snowshoeing after that.

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